Social media ‘not really’ willing to co-operate on combatting harmful content

Oireachtas committee critical of how companies address content issues on their services

Social media companies were "not really" willing to co-operate in drawing up new laws to police harmful content on their services, members of an Oireachtas committee have said.

The Oireachtas committee on arts, media and culture, chaired by Cavan-Monaghan TD Niamh Smyth, on Tuesday launched its report on new legislation planned to regulate the online content which causes harm to children and others.

Committee members were critical of how the social media giants – who attended at committee hearings to discuss the legislation – addressed the issue.

"Were they willing participants? No, not really. No, not really," Fianna Fáil deputy Shane Cassells said. He added that the companies had got "testy" when asked about their advertising revenues.


He said that some of what the social media companies deem to be acceptable online “fuels harm to children”.

Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster was also critical of the companies, while Fianna Fail senator Malcolm Byrne, said: "They say they want to cooperate with regulation – but then again they would say that, wouldn't they?"

He said that “they are not going to be self-regulating anymore”.

The forthcoming Media Commission and Online Safety Bill will seek to police harmful online content for the first time. An online safety commissioner should have the power to request that content be taken down and to impose penalties if they refuse, members said.

“You’d hope that they would take it down themselves in the first instance,” Mr Byrne said. “But if there’s a failure to do that, then action should be taken.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times